On June 20, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen that impacts the New York City pistol permit applications and potentially prior gun convictions in New York State Court. The decision ruled New York City’s pistol permit scheme to be unconstitutional, leading to many changes in application process for pistol permits and the ability of New York City residents to possess a pistol. Based on this Supreme Court decision, it appears that there now may be a way for people convicted of criminal possession of a weapons to have their convictions vacated or re-prosecuted with different charges.
What Does the Supreme Court’s Bruen Decision Mean?
The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen held that New York City’s restrictive pistol licensing requirement for carrying concealed weapons in pubic places was unconstitutional. The decision invalidated New York City’s method of granting concealed carry licenses. Specifically, Supreme Court had an issue with New York City requiring an application to show “a special need for self-protection distinguishable from that of the ageneral community.”
The decision marks the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has found that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to carry firearms outside the home. In the decision, the Court held that New York City’s law was too restrictive and did not provide enough discretion to the licensing authority. The Court also held for the first time, that the Second Amendment applies outside the home. This means that people have a constitutional right to carry a firearm outside the home.
The Bruen decision does not change anything for individuals who are prohibited from possessing handguns under federal law. Specifically, individuals who are prohibited from possessing guns under 18 U.S.C. 922(g), still cannot possess guns either inside their homes or in public.
Federal Prohibitions on Gun Possession
Under federal law, the following are considered federally prohibited people from possessing guns:
- Convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year (usually felonies, in some states these can also be “high misdemeanors”)
- Fugitives from justice;
- Unlawful users or those addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802);
- Adjudicated as a mentally defective or previously committed to any mental institution;
- Illegal aliens;
- Discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
- Those who renounced his or her United States citizenship;
- Subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or
- Those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
New York Gun Convictions After Bruen
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Bruen case may provide a way for people with New York gun convictions under the old law to vacate those convictions or have them re-prosecuted with more appropriate charges. The decision may allow people to vacate convictions of Criminal Possession of a Weapon for possessing a firearm outside their home or place of business. The exact application of Bruen to prior gun convictions in New York City remains to be seen.
People v. Rodriguez – Dismissal of Indictment Denied
As of today, only two decisions were issued by New York City Courts on the application of Bruen to past criminal possession of weapons cases and open cases. First, in People v. Rodriguez, a New York County opinion from July 22, 2022, the Judge denied dismissal of two counts of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree, because Mr. Rodriguez’s motion did not articulate him previously applying or attempting to apply for a pistol permit in New York City. The Judge reasoned that since Mr. Rodriguez was not impacted by the permit scheme, because he never applied for a pistol permit, he did not have standing to challenge being charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree.
People v. Duszka – Dismissal of Indictment Denied
Second, in People v. Duszka, a Queens County opinion from July 27, 2022, the Court similarly denied a post-Bruen motion to dismiss because the Defendant never attempted to apply for a pistol permit. Rather, the Defendant allegedly made a “ghost gun,” which he possessed inside the home. The Court ruled that the Defendant never established that he was wrongfully denied a pistol permit under the licensing scheme, as he never applied. Similarly to Rodriguez, the Court also distinguished the fact pattern presented from the ruling in Bruen and denied the constitutional challenge.
What Doesn’t Change?
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Bruen case does not change anything for individuals who are prohibited from possessing handguns under federal law. Specifically, individuals who are prohibited from possessing guns under 18 U.S.C. 922(g).
After Bruen, people with New York gun convictions should consult with an experienced New York criminal defense attorney to determine if their conviction may be vacated or reduced. As only two New York State decisions were issued on the applicability of Bruen, it may be worthwhile to consult an attorney regarding your situation, but waiting on the filing of any motions until there are some more favorable decisions from New York Courts following Bruen. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.